The functioning of a 17th century feminine court in the light of the writings of La Grande Mademoiselle
The article discusses the life of the personal court of a 17th century aristocratic woman, Anne Marie Louise de Montpensier known as la Grande Mademoiselle, the niece of King Louis XIII of France. Jackowska’s choice to consider this instance was the consequence of the availability of source materials, including the literary output of the patroness herself. The court in question, one of the most numerous among contemporary entourages, consisted of 58 persons. Its forming started already before the duchess was born, and was complemented along with her growing up. It encompassed both professional administrators (superintendents of landed estates, secretaries), ladies–in–waiting and courtiers who’s duty was to accompany the patroness and, when need arose, fulfil services at her request. A. M. Jackowska emphasizes that the functioning of the court milieu was affected by complicated interpersonal relations. Its composition, apart from the patroness, was shaped by her father, Duke Gaston d’Orléans, and by numerous commitments towards her family and other aristocratic clans, not to mention the responsibilities vis–à–vis the kinsfolk and friends of her prematurely deceased mother. Sometimes, even the court–members themselves would promote their own relatives and friends to vacant court posts. The ladies–in–waiting also attempted to influence the opinions and actions of the Grande Mademoiselle to such an extent that the duchess was anxious that she was losing control of her own court.
Remaining in close contact with a rich aristocrat was highly advantageous for the courtiers: allowances in cash, opportunities for promoting relatives and friends, various honorary privileges, and sometimes also taxation and judicial benefits. Since the court of the Grande Mademoiselle could be considered as placed within the broadly regarded milieu of the king of France, it provided also opportunities of a career at the king’s own entourage, of military posting, or — in the case of women — of an appropriate marriage. The importance attached to being close to the king is well depicted by the noticeable decline in court discipline when the Grande Mademoiselle was sent away for several years (with her train) to Saint–Fargeau castle as a measure of royal discontent with her.